A woman learnt of her husband’s third marriage via Whatsapp, The Mercury reported on Monday.
The woman, who is the first wife of a well-known KwaZulu-Natal radio and television personality, said she knew her husband had entered into a second customary marriage after their own marriage in 2012, because she attended the second ceremony.
However, she learnt of his third marriage via Whatsapp after wife number three sent her a message informing her the ceremony had taken place at the Department of Home Affairs in October 2014. She was said to be left “reeling” from the news, the daily reported.
The woman has applied to the Durban High Court to have both subsequent marriages annulled.
The application is based on the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, which stated a husband in a customary marriage must first apply via the courts if he wished to enter into subsequent marriages, a law often ignored in South Africa.
The man’s first two marriages took place at Nkandla.
In March, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria settled a legal battle between the two wives of a man who had only found out about each other after his death, News24 reported.
Lina Sesi Nhlapo went to court to have her customary marriage to the late Thomas Jack Mahlangu declared valid after the home affairs department refused to register the marriage due to his civil marriage to a second wife, Lillian Mahlangu.
Nhlapo argued her husband’s civil and customary marriage to Lillian was invalid, because, being the first wife, she had not been aware of the marriage and had not agreed to it in terms of Ndebele customary union laws. She also wanted her own marriage recognised as a civil marriage.
However, Mahlangu had both a customary and civil marriage, meaning legally the department only recognised the second wedding even though Nhlapo had been married in a customary service first.
In 2012, two non-government organisations (NGOs) asked the Constitutional Court to order a man who wanted to marry a second wife could only do so if his first wife agreed – irrespective of the African culture involved, City Press reported.
Advocates representing the Legal Resources Centre and the Women’s Legal Centre Trust argued the constitutional rights to equality and dignity demanded first wives be given consent before their husband took a second wife.